See Me, See Me Not

Spring is in the air, the days are getting longer, the weather is warming up and more motorcyclists are venturing out onto the roadways.  Sadly, there has already been one local motorcycle fatality in our area. Reading about this in the local news, the motorist involved in the accident made a comment that motorcyclists hear too often, “I didn’t see the motorcycle.”   According to blog.Nationwide.com, “nearly two-thirds of motorcycle accidents are caused by drivers of other vehicles violating the motorcycle’s right-of-way.” Motorcycles are smaller and can accelerate and decelerate faster than automobiles do.  As motorcyclists we have less surface area than an automobile and in turn this makes us more difficult to be seen due to the limited amount of reflective area on a motorcycle.  The way we present ourselves can make it easier (or more difficult) for a motorist to see us. Presentation, as identified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), means that you are using a lane position where others can see you.  The lane is divided up into three possible positions: lane position 1 (LP1: the left side of the lane), lane position 2 (LP2: the middle of the lane) and lane position 3 (LP3: the right side of the lane).  Here are some considerations from the MSF Basic RiderCourse:

  • Use LP1
    • as your start position to see and be seen
    • to see better when approaching a right-hand curve
    • to be more visible at an intersection with a limited view to the right
  • Use LP2
    • to help with hazards on both sides, ie. parked cars
    • to see and be seen at the crest of a hill
    • to be visible at an intersection with a limited view on both sides
  • Use LP3
    • to see and be seen when there is a line of oncoming cars
    • to see better when approaching a left-hand curve
    • to be seen at an intersection with a limited view to the left

Be aware of your surroundings and reposition yourself within the lane as situations change. Keep an adequate space cushion between you and other vehicles and have an escape route in the event you have to maneuver quickly.  Notice when others may not be able to see you, being especially careful when you are in the blind spot of a car or truck. 

Color can make a big difference in your visibility.  The color of your motorcycle, helmet and jacket play a big part in motorists seeing you.   Yellow and orange have traditionally been the “caution” colors and wearing these colors will draw a driver’s eye you.  If you’re not into high visibility colors, make sure your jacket has reflective piping on it.  And, you can add reflective tape to a dark color helmet. 

Take a look at your lights.  The beautiful Laguna Orange on my Street Glide Special made it nearly impossible to identify that my rear brake lights and signal lights were being used, especially if the sun was shining on them. This was pointed out to me by several people and I very quickly added additional LED lighting to the back of my bike.  Use your turn signals to alert others of what you plan to do.  Then be diligent to turn off the signal.  I’m noticing more motorcyclists adding auxiliary lighting to their bikes, this may be an option that appeals to you!

As you get ready for a new riding season, take some precautionary measures to make yourself more visible to motorists. Many motorcyclists comment that when they ride, they pretend to be invisible and motorists cannot see them.  This in turn results in defensive riding.  Don’t take for granted that motorists see you and take precautionary measures to make yourself be seen.  Remember, safe riding starts with you! 

Thunder Roads of Tennessee, April 2019

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